03 Jan Eating: Graffiato DC
I continue to marvel at how many great restaurants there are now in DC and it is actually difficult to chose where to go when I only have a few days in town. On my last visit, I was able to make it a double “Top Chef Weekend”. The first night we ventured to Bryan Voltaggio’s new restaurant Range. The next night we ventured to Mike Isabella’s Graffiato, which means “graffiti” or “scratched.”
I will be honest in saying that, as a loyal Top Chef viewer, Mike Isabella on Season 6 was not one of my favorite contenders. He was too arrogant for my liking and his dishes didn’t seem to be as exciting as some of his competition (ie. the Voltaggio brothers). But, I became a fan of his when he was on Top Chef All-Stars and after eating at Graffiato, I can say with confidence that his food is exciting and flavorful.
Located in the bustling GalleryPlace\Chinatown, Graffiato offers a seasonal, local ingredient inspired menu including handmade pastas, artisanal pizzas from the wood oven and a ham bar. Dishes are served more like tapas, which allows for a tasting of many different flavors. It is a casual scene and the restaurant, with exposed brick walls, is warm and inviting.
On the imbibing front, there are more than 50 wines by the glass. The selection of wines is approachable and creative. With most wines from Italy and California, there are also a few from the local Virginia wine regions, as well as a few obscure wines from Texas and Idaho. There is also Prosecco on-tap. Graffiato also offers a fun cocktail list ($10-$11) but on this particular night we stuck to a lovely bottle of G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso, a blend of Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera.
The menu is divided into 7 categories – Vegetate, Salad & Soup, Wood Oven, Cheese & Cure, Chef’s Favorites, Pasta and Pizza. There were three of us and our waiter suggested starting with 3 plates per person – we ended up with 7 (including a pizza) plus a dessert, and it was the perfect amount.
As we perused the menu, we were served a plate of sweet and spicy roasted pistachios coated in smoky paprika and a touch of chili.
Charred Octopus with smoked eggplant, pomegranate, sumac ($13) – the smokey eggplant and tart pomegranate were in harmony with the tender octopus
Goat Cheese Gnudi with sunchoke, truffle and prosciutto ($11) – tender and delicious, they melt in your mouth
Roasted Cauliflower with pecorino and mint ($7) – the mint added a bright touch to the tender cauliflower
Brussels Sprouts with pancetta, maple and yogurt ($7) – the charred Brussels sprouts, perfectly caramelized in maple syrup, were crispy and sweet and served with crispy pancetta and scrambled egg (a surprise element in the dish)
Popeye’s pizza with spinach, bacon, tomato, mozarella and musrooms ($17) – the crust was puffy, light and sweet
Ricotta Cavatelli with lamb ragu, feta, mint, pistachio ($12) – perfectly cooked pasta, the ragu had a spicy kick to it and the pistachio added a little extra texture
Braised Beef Short Ribs with creamy polenta, celery root ($15) – a rich, indulgent dish, thankfully it was a small plate
Warm Chocolate Cake with fudge, salted caramel gelato ($8) – rich and lucious dark chocolate with salty caramal gelato, we licked the plate clean
After our meal at Graffiato, Mike Isabella has established himself as a “Top Chef” and is definitely now one of my favorites.
707 6th St NW
Washington DC 20001